Friday, October 29, 2010

The Traveler Returns

I am now home from my travels and trying to get caught up. This was the longest I've been away from home in more than ten years. I do love to travel and see new places, but I also love my home and am quite the homebody. When I get home, I just want to hug my house. It was so lovely last night to use my own shower and sleep in my own bed, to have my sofa and my TV and my kitchen. It was probably more intense this time because I'd just spent more than 24 hours on a train, so not only did I have all of the above, but those things weren't constantly moving and shaking. It was several hours after I got home before it stopped feeling like I was still on a train.

So, first the convention. I don't think I acted too much like a raving fangirl when I met Katherine Kurtz, and I think I played it moderately cool when I ended up sitting next to her at the big, mass booksigning. I got her autograph on a book I'd brought, and then she actually picked up one of my books and flipped through it, which caused a major internal meltdown, of the "Yikes! Katherine Kurtz is reading one of my books!" variety. Wouldn't you know, it didn't occur to me to get a photo with her. After the signing, I did hang out with her a bit because we went together to watch the boat races at the hotel pool. They had a competition for building a working, self-propelled boat out of a milk carton. Mostly though, I ended up spending a lot of the convention chatting with her husband, who was very interesting. We had some similar things in our background, and we'd read some of the same books, so there was a lot of conversational fodder. One fun bit of news: Deryni Rising is under development for film (which I think means it's at about the same status level as the Enchanted, Inc. movie -- option and script).

I was surprised by how many people I knew at the con, but there were people I knew from Worldcon a couple of years ago and others who seem to overlap with the regional cons I usually attend. I also met some interesting new people. For instance, I spent much of Sunday afternoon chatting with Carol Berg.

I got to do some sightseeing around Denver on Monday and even got to go up into the mountains a little, where it was very cold. Then it was off to Chicago by train. The thing I liked most about the train trip, aside from seeing the country in a different way than you do by car, was that for meals in the dining car, they put you at tables with other people, so you meet some really interesting people along the way. I thought Iowa, at least the part we went through, was absolutely beautiful. The fall colors were going strong, and there were all these farms with the white farmhouses and red barns, like a picture on one of those scenic jigsaw puzzles. And then all the little towns we went through were very picturesque.

We missed the storms in Chicago, thanks to the train being a couple of hours behind schedule (I think for some of it, they deliberately slowed down to miss the storms), then after a night at a hotel (a bed that didn't move and shake!), it was time for the train back home. We saw St. Louis at night and got a great view of the arch. Then the next morning, my favorite part of the trip was a part that was unscheduled. There was a problem on the tracks ahead, so we got a detour on a freight line through northeast Texas, on a track that was pretty far from the road a lot of the way. It was like we were tunneling through a forest. I sat in the observation car and just stared out the window. Then it was fun for me to be on the train tracks that parallel the highway I drive to visit my parents because I was seeing a lot of the familiar landmarks, but from a different perspective. The area near where my parents live was probably my favorite scenery of the entire trip. It really is a beautiful part of the country.

While I was in Denver, I met with my agent, and she really liked the project I'd been putting together. Now I have some work to do to get it ready for submission, so I have an excuse to hide in my cave for a while. I've already talked myself out of going grocery shopping today because I can survive until tomorrow, when I have to go out for a dance class, anyway, but I do need to go to the library to get a reference book for all this work I have to do, so I can't be a total recluse, even if I do love my house.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Meeting My Heroes

In just a moment, I'll be catching the bus to the airport to go to Denver for MileHiCon, and then I'm taking the scenic route back, via train, so I'll be gone for a week. I won't be doing a writing post next week because I'm not entirely sure I'll have Internet access on a day I'll be spending on the train. I may try to post blogs or photos with my nifty new phone, but as there seems to be a learning curve, I will likely post only to the LiveJournal site, not to Blogger (unless I figure out how to copy and paste on the phone). And all that will depend on Internet or 3G access as I cross the midwest on a train. I suppose this would have been a good time to get on Twitter, but that would have been yet another learning curve I don't have time for.

One of the cool things about this convention for me will be the chance to meet Katherine Kurtz. Her books pretty much got me through high school. I was absolutely obsessed with the Deryni series. I discovered the first book in the library, fell madly in love with the characters, then immediately went and bought that book and the next two in that trilogy. I was disappointed to learn that the next trilogy was about an entirely different set of characters a couple of hundred years in the past, so I didn't bother with those books. Until, that is, a friend dragged me to her favorite place to shop for books, and the only thing that struck my fancy at all was the first book in that next trilogy. Since she'd been so high on this being the best bookstore ever I felt I ought to buy something, so I bought it. It was a while before I read it, and then I discovered that I liked that set of characters even better. In fact, that book, Camber of Culdi remains my absolute favorite in the series. My copy is tattered and falling apart, and yet that's the one I'm going to bring to get autographed. I plowed through that series, even as it got increasingly tragic.

In spite of the tragedy, danger and violence, it was the kind of fully realized world that I wished I could live in. I liked that she'd done so much world building that there were family trees in the back where you could see how the various groups of characters intersected (though those could be spoilery, since you could tell which characters were going to die in which books). For a history nut, these books were like crack, and they got me into researching the parallel periods and situations in our world.

But mostly, it came down to the characters. I think I fell in love with most of the men (well, the good guys). Rhys Thuryn remains on my list of top ten literary boyfriends, ever. I actually felt a sense of loss when I closed the covers on one of those books because it was like saying good-bye to friends. I didn't have a lot of close friends in high school, so I often needed an escape, and I liked having these imaginary friends and images of close friendship that were in these books.

I already knew I wanted to be a writer -- and a fantasy writer, at that -- long before I read these books, but I think some of my earlier stabs at the genre owed a lot to Katherine Kurtz. There were some really bad attempts at epic fantasy that spanned generations that have fortunately been lost to time and to outmoded operating systems. I still have a few ideas I hope to get back to, and I suspect they still show some of her influence.

Now, the question is, will I have the nerve to talk to her, or will I stammer and avoid her? I don't seem to be on any panels with her, so I don't have to worry about that, but on the other hand, that doesn't automatically put me in the position of "professional peer" either. I've had good luck in meeting many of my literary icons and ending up becoming friends of a sort with them, so I probably shouldn't be this nervous, but I don't think you ever grow out of being a fangirl, and I suspect I'll end up reverting to my inner sixteen-year-old who first fell in love with those books.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Magical Education

After I posted yesterday about the return to curly hair and remembering wanting the long, swingy hair when I was a kid, on the noon news they had a story about the Sesame Street video that's gone viral, with a little black girl puppet singing about loving her curly hair and how the song was written by a father who'd adopted a little girl from Ethiopia who envied her Barbie doll's hair. He wanted to give her something that would help her feel good about herself. They referenced the Whoopie Goldberg routine about putting a towel on her head to pretend to have long, flowing hair. I'm about the whitest white girl who ever whited, with Norwegian and Scots-Irish ancestry, but I still related and that still resonated with me. Just once, I want a movie makeover with a curly-haired woman where they don't straighten her hair to make her beautiful.

Back to the ongoing series of reader questions about the Enchanted, Inc. series. I had a question about education in this universe, particularly about Owen's. I didn't write down the specific question, but I recall it having to do with his degree and what that might have to do with his future with the company.

Well, I can't get into the future because I don't have it entirely planned, and even if I did, I wouldn't want to spoil it. But I will get into how I see the magical educational system in this universe.

In my world, there is no Hogwarts equivalent -- no magical school system. The magical kids go to ordinary schools and then go to ordinary universities to get ordinary degrees in their particular field of interest that relates to their magical field of interest. For instance, Owen has a thing for researching ancient magical documents, so he studied linguistics and specialized in ancient languages, which he thought would be useful in deciphering ancient magical languages. Knowing the principles of the way languages work and knowing some of the root languages like Latin and Greek would be helpful in reading ancient texts. I think Rod studied psychology, since his focus in magic involves manipulating other people's minds and anticipating what they want to see so he can create the right illusion. And then that also applies to his human resources job.

In some towns like Owen's hometown where most of the residents are magical and magic is used fairly openly, there might have been a little more magical training in the school, or at least there would have been something like a magic club. Otherwise, the school focused on the usual reading, writing, math and science stuff.

The magical education is an extracurricular activity, kind of like scouting. You advance through levels by completing certain projects or mastering certain skills. Or kids might be home schooled in magic by their magical parents. Or both. Some kids get a much more stringent magical education and learn a lot about the theory and the "science" behind it, while others might just learn the basics and the spells that make life easier.

The reason I decided that Owen and Rod went to Yale was that Yale is fairly notorious for its secret societies, and I figured it would make sense that if you were going to have a magic club for elite-level training at a university, it would have to be a secret society. I liked the idea that people on the outside might think they were just another fraternity-like group doing silly rituals to make themselves feel superior, when actually they were intensely focused on mastering the higher levels of magic. Not that there weren't pranks and stunts, since these are students we're talking about. That's where Owen's highly detailed prank spells came in.

There may be a short story or two in there somewhere, like fanficition for my own universe, but I don't know when I'll get to it.

I'm almost out of questions, so if you've thought of something you want to know about this series, the ideas behind it, the universe or the characters, ask away!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Curly Again

My hair is now back to its more or less normal state. I was surprised to feel a bit of a pang as I stepped into the shower. I don't think I'd want straight hair permanently, but it got to be fun exploring the other side of things. I liked the swinginess. I've read in books where they described someone's hair as falling like a curtain across her face, and now I know what that's like. When I was a kid, when I was pulling a sweater, especially a turtleneck, off over my head, I'd let it stick on the back of my head for a while with the sweater hanging off the back of my head like it was long, straight hair and let it swing around for a while. This was what that was like, only with my hair. I had straighter hair as a kid, but never had it long until I was an adult and it was very curly. It was also nice being able to push my sunglasses back on my head without them getting tangled up in my hair.

Then there was a minor moment of fear that it wouldn't go back to normal. I also hadn't seen this color or this haircut the normal way, so I didn't know how it would do curly. It was with some relief that I saw that as soon as my hair was wet, it started curling up again.

So, here's the progression:

On Sunday, it had loosened up from the stick-straight mode it was in right after I got home from the salon. There was some frizz, but also more life.

Then on Monday, I think it was at its best. The ends were starting to curl a bit and it had some bounce.

And now it's back to normal and curly.

All of these photos were taken on my stairs because that was the easiest way to pose for the self-timer. I set the camera on one step, then sat a few steps down. I chose the photos for the way my hair looks, not necessarily for which was the best photo overall.

This is a short week for me because I'm leaving for Denver on Thursday and since I'll be gone a while, I have to get everything for the next couple of weeks done in these few days. My to-do list is kind of scary, though most of the tasks are relatively short and easy (like "water plants," "put scary attack neighbor on alert" and "lock back doors"). I just put absolutely everything on the list so I wouldn't forget anything. I'm trying to take care of all but the very last minute stuff today so that I don't feel frantic and rushed tomorrow.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Straightening Out My Life

I had a rather eventful weekend. I did get a new smart phone and am now learning how to use it. Oddly, making a phone call seems to be the most challenging task for me. It was a gorgeous weekend, so I went with my friends to a lakeside restaurant and sat out on the patio over the lake. When I got home, I still wanted to be outside, so I went to the park across the street and sat by the pond, then later sat on my patio and had a glass of wine. And then had to repair my screen door when it got out of the track, which was really interesting after a glass of wine. Sunday morning, my children's choir sang, and they were just too cute for words. At that age, "cute" covers a lot of stuff, but I think they were actually good while being incredibly cute. We did have a few who refused to wear choir robes. Sometimes I wish I could get away with that in adult choir. And then I took a nice, long walk Sunday afternoon. The leaves are just starting to turn and there was a smell of wood smoke in the air (probably more from grilling than from fireplaces because it was too warm for a fire).

But the big thing about the weekend was that I spent it with straight hair. I went to a new stylist, and for some reason they always want to straighten my hair on the first appointment. I tried objecting and said I didn't want it, but this guy kept going, and I figured it wasn't worth making a huge scene and stalking out of there, which it would have taken, since I could undo it by taking a shower (still, it may be my last appointment with him because I don't consider it a good sign when a stylist blatantly disregards the client's preferences). It was the first time a stylist has successfully straightened my hair, so that it actually looked straight and did that swingy thing straight hair does. Before, it's always just come out kind of weirdly frizzy. At first, I was all ready to take a shower as soon as I got home, but then I decided it counts as research. I haven't really had straight hair before, and definitely not long straight hair, so I didn't know what it was like, and yet I've written all these straight-haired characters. Since it's best not to wash your hair for a while after getting it colored, I decided to keep it as long as I could and see what it was like having straight hair.

Here I am right after I got back from the stylist. Compare it to the photo in my books:

One thing I learned is that my hair is really, really fine. The only body it has is from the curl. Without the curls, it's like baby hair. It won't hold hair pins, barrettes or ponytail holders. I tried putting it in a ponytail for a walk, and the holder -- one of the supposedly "no slip" ones -- just slid off my hair. I did enjoy being able to swing my hair. I felt like I was in a shampoo commercial. And I could run my fingers through my hair without getting trapped. There was one minor challenge when I realized I don't have a hairbrush. You don't brush curly hair. You can comb it with a wide-toothed comb when it's wet, but after it's dry, you don't touch it. With straight hair, a brush is necessary. I finally found a travel-size brush that came in one of those makeup bonus packs, where you get sample/travel-size makeup and accessories when you buy a certain amount of makeup.

I think the most interesting thing was the reactions from people. I posted a picture on Facebook, and everyone seemed to love the straight hair on me, while I felt it wasn't even really "me." Even my mom loved it. I guess I shouldn't have expected my friends and family to say it looks horrible, but no one said anything about liking the curls better. That then reminded me of all those movie makeovers where the woman is considered less attractive while she has curly hair, but then when she becomes beautiful and glamorous, she has straight hair. I've always felt like the curls are one of my more striking features and I'm just ordinary without them. The straight hair feels really alien, like a costume, almost. I expected some reaction from the little kids because they have no filter, and if they think something, they'll say something, but none of them said anything. A couple did give me funny looks, like they thought there was something odd about me but weren't sure what. Oddly, none of the adults I saw Sunday commented on the change (and the color also changed pretty drastically).

I'll be going back to normal tonight because I'm taking a make-up ballet class, and that will require a shower afterward. Today the straight hair probably looks its best because it seems to be trying to revert to normal, and that means the ends are curling a bit, so it's not stick straight and flat anymore. It's not the individual ringlets I normally have, but it does have body. If I could get it to this point, I could probably deal with it occasionally, but the straightening process isn't something I'd want to go through very often. It took at least half an hour of blow drying and then flat ironing, and then it was more than two days before it got to where I like it, just before I'm going to have to wash it.

I'll have to post an "after" picture, and maybe the daily progression pictures, tomorrow.

Friday, October 15, 2010


I think I may have settled on a cell phone to get. I went to the AT&T store and played with their phones for a while, and it came down between the iPhone and the Sony Ericsson Xperia. They're pretty similar and cost the same, but the Ericsson phone seems to be more open, so that I can get things from my computer to it without having the latest Apple software. I can just export MP3s from my computer to the phone to put music on it instead of having to sync it through iTunes. I don't necessarily even want my phone synced with my computer. I might put a little music on it just to have it but will likely eventually get a music-specific device. The big surprise was that with the current plans, getting the data plus voice may actually end up costing less than I'm paying now. I may go back early next week and take the plunge.

While I was in the area, I walked on over to Wal-Mart for a few errands. I'm not a Wal-Mart fan, but there aren't too many places where I can order contact lenses, get a spool of thread to hem some pants and get an onion for making dinner all under one roof and have all that within walking distance. However, I think I may be allergic to Wal-Mart. I'd been doing fine, but soon after I got inside, I started coughing, and by the time I left, I was in a full-on coughing fit. I got an ice cream cone at the McDonald's in the store for the walk home because I thought maybe the cool stuff would soothe my throat, but while I was waiting for it and then just getting from there to the exit, I was coughing non-stop and my eyes and nose were running. Soon after I got away from the store, I was fine again. So something in there must have set me off.

And then I got lazy and didn't even make what I had planned with the onion. But hey, I've got it for tomorrow. I also needed lemons, but they didn't have any other than one two-pound bag where the mesh had been torn. Not what you want when you're walking a mile home. I wasn't impressed with their produce.

Now I need to take care of a few more tasks as I get ready for a trip. Sunday will be a big day for me, as the combined four year old and five year old choirs will be singing in church, and I got volunteered out of all the leaders for those classes to direct the choir, since I'm the one who sings in the chancel choir. And yes, directing kids that young to sing in unison is rather like herding cats, but they're absolutely adorable. My class is the five-year-olds, but I seem to have impressed the four-year-old boys because I talked to one of them about his Star Wars t-shirt and could discuss Star Wars with them. I found my people. I'll have to show them the lightsaber on my keychain.

Ooh, if I get the new phone before then, I can get one of the other teachers to take video of them.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I think I'm making real progress on the health front. I made it through a choir sectional rehearsal last night (but left before the main rehearsal because the voice was gone), and then I slept without medication last night and didn't wake up in the morning coughing. I did have a few nighttime coughing spells, but it seems like now the coughing is more of a reflex or even a habit than a real need. It feels weird to be almost back to normal again, like I'd forgotten what that feels like.

However, I'm not making progress on the work front. That writing binge I was talking about? Hasn't happened. On Tuesday, I read through the rest of what I'd written, did some re-plotting because I realized I'd gone down a rabbit hole, then did some serious cutting to what I'd most recently written and planned the next scene. Yesterday, not much happened. I got off schedule in the morning, then got sidetracked by some business stuff and some things I needed to think about for my trip next week, and finally got around to working just before I had to leave for children's choir. I mostly rewrote the last scene before my re-boot, then did a little more planning. It was almost like I was afraid to go back to writing new stuff. Today I will make myself dig in and get on it.

One of the distractions was that I've realized I probably need to get a new cell phone, and since the main time I use my cell phone is when I travel, now would be a good time. The one I have is barely holding a charge anymore, and they recently sent me a note saying my phone would no longer support text or data services (not that it was ever much good at data services -- it sort of did it, but it was such a pain to do that I almost never used it for that purpose). The phone is six years old, which is a lifetime in technology years. Now, though, I need to figure out which direction to go. I know a lot about cellular telecommunications from my PR days. I did PR for Ericsson, mostly on the network side, but since I did trade show media relations I did deal with devices and some of the very early prototypes of the Internet-capable smartphones. And I did the PR launch of PrimeCo, which is now Verizon. But although I can tell you how the stuff works, I'm not sure what would be the best for me, especially since so much has changed.

I seldom leave the house and I mostly use my cell phone for long-distance, since that's part of the plan. I use it when traveling, mostly to let my parents know I made it safely, and then occasionally for logistics planning when meeting up with friends when I'm out and about or when I'm at conventions or conferences. And then there's having it in case of emergency. I've seldom used the text messaging feature, though I do like the text notifications from airlines when I'm traveling. But it would be nice to be able to send and receive e-mail from a mobile device and maybe have some Internet access without lugging around a computer. I could see where having e-reader capability might be nice. I don't much care about a camera or being able to listen to music on it. But since my usage is so sporadic, I don't know that I'm willing to pay the full-on data plan prices. I wonder if you can get that sort of thing pay-as-you-go.

And when I ask people for recommendations, it does seem almost like religion, with real emotional bonds to service providers or manufacturers or else antipathy to service providers or manufacturers. I've been with AT&T forever (it started as a work account because of the Ericsson connection, and AT&T was pretty much required because they used Ericsson's network equipment, and you had to have an Ericsson phone in the Ericsson trade show booth) but am not under contract, so I can change providers. AT&T is handy because my parents also have it, so we can call within the network without using up minutes. Not that using up minutes is an issue for me. I think I have about a zillion rollover minutes right now. Most of the time, my phone lives in the bottom of my purse and I have to remember to charge it and turn it on when I go out.

Since it's a nice day, I may hike up the hill to the AT&T store and do some research, maybe hint that I'm thinking of changing carriers and see what they'll do for me. It's also fun to scare/impress the sales guys with my technical knowledge.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Hero's Journey: Crossing the First Threshold

I managed to sleep more or less through the night without Benadryl, so either the removal of large amounts of dust from my bedroom helped or I'm just on the upswing. Or maybe making it to ballet helped. It was rather alarming how dusty the carpet was behind the nightstand. The nightstand is almost flush against the wall, so I hadn't thought of needing to move it, but I got rather zealous about moving furniture and vacuuming once I got started

I'm continuing the discussion of the stages of the hero's journey, as discussed in The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. We started in the Ordinary World, then the hero received the Call to Adventure. Initially he Refused the Call, but after a Meeting with the Mentor, he's ready to move on. That brings us to the next stage, Crossing the First Threshold.

This is when the hero commits to the quest and takes action that moves him into the special world of the story. In the three-act structure used by screenwriters, this is usually the first major turning point of the story. Sometimes this is triggered by the actions of others that force the hero onto his journey. If the bad guys are after him, then he doesn't have much choice. In Star Wars, it was the stormtrooper attack on his home and the murder of his aunt and uncle that sealed Luke's decision to go off on the quest with Obi Wan, since he no longer had any reason to stay. In The Terminator, the killer robot from the future coming after her forced Sarah Connor into the story. There was no decision to be made when she was told "Come with me if you want to live." Frodo didn't have a lot of choice about leaving the Shire after he learned that the Ringwraiths were looking for him there, though later he did make the choice to go on the quest to destroy the ring.

In other cases, it's a choice the hero makes for internal reasons, out of a sense of duty or a realization that his life isn't what it should be. He may even have ulterior motives, so that he sees that taking on the adventure may get him closer to getting what he wants. The kids make the journey through the wardrobe into Narnia to see what's there. In Stardust, Tristan enters Stormhold to retrieve the fallen star because he thinks that will help him win the love of the girl he admires. In the first Pirates movie, Will Turner goes off with Jack Sparrow to rescue the woman he loves, even though he doesn't trust pirates. Indiana Jones agrees to the quest to get the head of the staff mostly because he doesn't want his rival to get to the Ark first (though he's also worried about the consequences if the Nazis get it).

During this phase, the hero may run into the Threshold Guardian character, someone who tests the hero by blocking the way at this key turning point, especially if the hero is choosing to cross the threshold. This was done humorously in the movie version of Stardust, where the ancient man guarding the hole in the wall turned out to have ninja skills and Tristan had to resort to magic to get where he needed to go.

The big part of this phase of the story is the crossing from the Ordinary World into the special world where most of the rest of the story will take place, that world that will test and try the hero and ultimately change him. In fantasy stories, this may be a literal crossing to a new world, like going to Narnia or Oz. In action stories, this may be marked by the hero going to a new location, like James Bond heading off to the exotic locale of his assignment. In the classic quest story structure it's a movement from the safe and familiar world into a more dangerous, more exciting place. But this can also be a metaphorical transition, and to challenge myself to come up with examples, I decided to focus on romantic comedies because these are generally very mundane and more or less based in the real world, and they aren't very action-oriented. Most of the journey in this kind of story is internal, so you really have to look for the transition to a special world when it looks a lot like the ordinary world.

There still can be a change of scenery. You see this a lot in fish-out-of-water stories, where the new world of the story is the new location for the hero or heroine, like in the movie Leap Year, which landed the spoiled city-girl heroine in rural Ireland; in Legally Blond, in which a California sorority girl goes to Harvard Law School; or in The Holiday, in which an Englishwoman and a Californian swap homes for the holiday season. Or the hero could move into a different world within the same setting by associating with a different kind of people or moving in different circles. In the movie Moulin Rouge, this was the poor writer moving into the glamorous world of the nightclub. In Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, it was the vicar's daughter governess going to work for the flighty actress and landing in a world of fashion shows, salon makeovers, swanky cocktail parties and decadent nightclubs. In While You Were Sleeping, an orphaned loner lands in the middle of a large, noisy, loving family.

A new person can also change the Ordinary World into the Special World of the story -- or, more accurately, the arrival is the Call to Adventure, and the hero crosses the threshold to the special world when he accepts the change that person brings to his life. In The Philadelphia Story, when the heroine decides to go along with the pretense that the cynical, down-to-earth reporter there to cover her wedding is a wedding guest, her world and the way she sees it changes due to his influence. The arrival of a glamorous woman changed everything for the hero of Four Weddings and a Funeral, especially after he impulsively went to the inn where she was staying after the wedding. The hero's world was never the same when he accepted a Hollywood superstar's invitation after she showed up in his bookstore in Notting Hill. The hero of Breakfast at Tiffany's entered a new world when he accepted the cocktail party invitation from Holly Golightly.

It can also be a changed relationship or even just a changed mindset. The commitmentphobic loner of About a Boy gets into a whole new world when he pretends to be a single dad in order to pick up single moms and finds that he can't break up with his date's son as easily as he breaks up with the woman. In When Harry Met Sally, Harry enters a new realm when he strikes up a friendship with Sally after believing that men and women can't be friends. Bridget Jones enters a new world when she makes the decision to try to get her life under control -- or at least record how out-of-control she is.

The main thing to remember about this stage is that it's a turning point. From this point, things aren't the same, and even if the hero gave up now and turned back, the old world wouldn't be the same for him. Even if the world is the same, he's already a little different or sees himself and the world in a different way. His only choice now is to keep going. Something needs to change at this point of the story to reflect the hero's movement into the adventure.

Next, the hero deals with this new world by encountering Tests, Allies and Enemies.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Impending Writing Binge

I actually made it through the whole day yesterday without any medication. Then it ended up being a very rough night. It seems like nights are worse no matter where I am in the house or what position I'm in. If I'm staying up late and sitting on the sofa, I start the coughing at the same time I do when I'm in bed. Even so, I'm doing a bit of a bedroom purge today to remove any obvious allergens and see if that makes things any better. There's a corner near my bed where I have an old-fashioned hat rack that I use to hold hats, scarves, belts and purses, and it hasn't been moved in ages. I'm currently running all the cloth items through the fluff cycle of the dryer to see if that removes any dust, and then I'm moving the rack out of the way and vacuuming that corner.

Meanwhile, I seem to be back in the saddle, work-wise. I wrote a synopsis yesterday, and I really hope I get to write this book because it should be tons of fun. Then I held true to my decision to give up Hawaii Five-O and devote that time to work. I didn't accomplish a lot in that time that I wouldn't have done while watching it, but I did get back to the book I'd been working on and I worked a while after it would have ended, which might not have happened otherwise. Right now, I'm rereading what I've written so I can then jump back into it. I'm kind of tempted to go on a writing binge and see how much I can pound out in the next week and a half before I leave town. It's the kind of story that I think would benefit from that kind of rush because it will generate the adrenaline and enthusiasm it needs. There seems to be a vibe a book gets from being written quickly.

Of course, the books that get written that quickly usually need a lot of rewriting, but getting the bones of the story down quickly still creates that sense of enthusiasm.

Though I don't know how a writing binge is going to work, considering I'm leaving town next week and will be gone for a whole week, and that means some preparation. I still have a little shopping to do to get ready for that (both clothes and travel reading material), and then there's laundry and cleaning house because the last thing you want to come back to when you're gone that long is a mess. So, yeah, I picked a bad time to suddenly get the writing itch. Ah, well, since I still haven't heard what my agent thinks of the proposal, finishing the book isn't necessarily urgent at the moment.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Another Movie Monday

I had a really great book event this weekend at the Balch Springs library. Due to a glitch, there were no actual books at the booksigning, but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. If there had been books there, I'd have just sat at a table and signed books or waited for someone to want books signed. As it was, there was a decent-sized crowd, so I just did a talk. The host was well-prepared to give an introduction and turned that into an interview, then I took questions from the audience and read an excerpt from one of the books the library had. I was raspy and took frequent cough breaks and sipped punch constantly, but I got through it. I was impressed with the turnout, and one of the city council members was even there. They definitely go on my local book tour list for the next time I have a book out, whenever that may be.

I haven't done a Movie Monday in a while, but since I've been sick for so long that I've forgotten what my normal voice sounds like, I've watched a few movies lately. Most of these were HBO.

First, (500 Days of) Summer -- I was rather skeptical of this one because it seemed a bit arty and pretentious for its own good, and I was prepared to dislike it when the narrator announced at the beginning that it wasn't a love story. I was expecting the arty/literary attitude that happy endings and true love aren't realistic and you're being a sellout when you do a happy ending, but that's not exactly the way the movie goes. The relationship in the movie does have an unhappy ending, and that's not a spoiler because it's the first scene in the movie, but I don't think the message of the movie is that there aren't any happy endings. The thing I liked about it was that it was told out of order, just in random days throughout the relationship, so you could examine the relationship on that day, out of context. There would be a post-breakup day followed by a just-met day followed by a high-points day followed by an on-the-decline day. It was a fascinating structure, and I need to watch it again now that I have it all worked out. My problem with the movie was mostly with the female lead, and I'm not sure if it's the writing or the actress. There was something very Mary Sue about the character, who was one of those inexplicably beloved by all (even though she's actually kind of a passive-aggressive bitch), overly cute and quirky people, but Zoey Deschanel seems to be typecast into that part (or else she plays everything that way). Maybe it's because I'm a straight woman, but I don't see what's so special about her that all men fall instantly in love with her. I did like the main character and most of the supporting cast, especially his sister and his relationship with his sister.

Then there was City of Ember, which is hard for me to discuss coherently because I was on Benadryl at the time and kept drifting off. Mostly I was noticing the production design, which was spectacular. It kind of reminded me of the movie Brazil, that sort of retro-futuristic Forties meets Steampunk, but made out of found objects, look. The gist of the story is that hundreds of years ago (in the story timeline), there was some cataclysm on earth, and the only way for mankind to survive was to move underground for a couple of hundred years. To keep people from going mad and trying to get to the surface, it seems they started with children who wouldn't have known the surface and created this whole story to celebrate the life underground. The full information about why they were there, how long they had to be there, and how to get out was put in a box with a countdown timer on it that each mayor was to pass on to the next major, and when the box opened, they'd know what to do. But then one mayor died unexpectedly without passing on the box, the box was lost, and now no one knows about the surface or how to get there. Meanwhile, the city, which wasn't meant to last this long, is falling apart. Then a girl finds a strange box in the back of a closet in her family home ... It's sort of a dystopian (yet optimistic) adventure story. I wasn't that into it from the beginning, but by the end I was caught up in it.

I watched last week's PBS production of Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart, on Sunday afternoon, and I liked it enough that I may get the DVD. They turned Macbeth into a war movie, which totally works. It's a vaguely WWII setting in a somewhat Stalinist country (when Macbeth becomes king, there are all these banners with his face on them). It worked so perfectly in that context. It was Macbeth with machine guns!

And then, I was finally able to get my hands on a copy of Penelope, which was recommended here when I was talking about looking for paranormal/fantasy romantic comedies. I'm not sure I'd entirely classify this as a romantic comedy, since it was more about the individual growth of the two characters and they were barely together in the movie, but it still sort of scratches that itch. It reminded me a lot of Pushing Daisies in tone and look -- that sort of contemporary but still kind of retro style, the fairy tale tone, the color saturation and then the city that's essentially "Everycity" -- all the elements we look for in a city for a story like that, while not being any particular place (it was fairly obviously filmed in London, but most of the cast was either American or British playing American, which helped give it that everywhere/anywhere effect). The movie was utterly delightful. It's essentially a gender-switched beauty and the beast story, which I love because I've gotten tired of all those stories where the woman is expected to fall in love in spite of appearances, but the guy is always getting a beauty. In this case, a curse on a blue-blood family means that the next daughter born will have the face of a pig, and the curse can only be broken by someone of her kind falling in love with her. When a daughter is born, more than 100 years later, the family keeps her hidden while trying to find the blue-blood guy who won't run screaming from her. Meanwhile, she's getting tired of being locked up and wants to live life. I got it from the library but may buy a copy because it's a real feel-good movie.

Meanwhile, the season finale of Haven totally blew me away. It doesn't necessarily fall into the "paranormal romantic comedy" category, since it isn't strictly a comedy (though it can be very, very funny) and isn't really romantic, but the main relationship is one of my favorite ever and seems to be doing a slow enough build to wherever it's going that it's exactly the kind of thing I like. That's one of the things a series (whether book or TV) can do, build a relationship gradually over time by pulling the people together and putting them through things that strengthen their bond. It's like the writers have looked at all the cliches of every TV partnership ever and either subverted them or dropped them entirely. They got the "partners draw guns on each other" thing out of the way in their first meeting. They've had an outside romantic interest without jealous hissy fits. They've had secrets that were then revealed without heavy drama and with them understanding why the secrets were kept for a while. They've had fights and arguments that didn't lead to major rifts but that were resolved with an apology. It's like the way I write characters and relationships put in a Stephen King plot, which sounds like some unholy hybrid, but now I'm kind of wondering how that would really work. Hmm, I wonder if Stephen King would be interested in going the James Patterson route and working with a writing partner.

Friday, October 08, 2010

It's Not Me, It's Them

I seem to be getting gradually better. I slept until 5 a.m. before waking up coughing, and it was more of a tickle in the throat setting off the coughing reflex than the trying to expel my lungs kind of cough like I'd been having. I think when I go out for errands this afternoon, I'll pick up some cough drops to use to settle that tickle because coughing only seems to make it worse, setting off even more coughing. Even so, when I have a booksigning/meet and greet at the Balch Springs Library tomorrow (11-1), any chatting I do may have to be done in charades because I start coughing if I try to talk too much.

I was starting to worry about myself this week when I finally gave up on several TV series. After all, it's a danger sign of depression if you no longer enjoy things that used to give you pleasure. But I suspect it's not me, it's them.

For starters, I've given the new Hawaii Five-O a shot, and decided that they forgot to create characters. The actors are good, and I've liked them in other things, but the writers have to do their part, too. Danny is the only one with a personality, and I get the feeling that's mostly the actor going well beyond the script. I just can't bring myself to care otherwise. That one may fall into the "OnDemand for background noise while I'm doing the Sunday crosswords" category, unless I'm finishing up med school stuff on Monday nights. I may turn it into a game and try to finish the med school stuff before 9, then make a point of devoting that hour to writing and see what adding an hour to my writing week does to my productivity.

Then I think NCIS: Los Angeles will fall into that same "OnDemand if I need background noise for the Sunday crosswords" category. I had been taping it while I was at ballet and then watching that and the original NCIS when I got home, but now I may just watch the one show and then go to bed or read. Not only did they write out the character I most related to and add a new guy who grates on my nerves, but now they seem to have added yet another highly irritating character, and the new characters are now making the characters I used to like irritating. It has reached the point where the irritating things outnumber the enjoyable things, and I don't want to waste my time on things that irritate me. I'm still not sure what the people at that show were thinking in making so many changes so soon to a show that was so successful. It's like they were trying for the fastest shark jump ever. I've never seen a show go from fun to unwatchable so quickly and so soon in the series run. Even House had been on three seasons before they shook up the cast.

And I think I'm giving up on Glee. I taped it to watch after choir on Wednesdays, but when I got home from choir early this week, I found myself watching Mythbusters instead, and then I was going to watch Glee but decided to rewatch an older episode of Haven OnDemand, and then I felt this huge sense of relief when I gave myself permission not to watch Glee. The thing is, I don't really like any of the characters. They all seem to be selfish almost to the point of being sociopaths. The one character who truly seems to be good at heart is portrayed as being dumber than a sack of rocks and then is often sacrificed on the altar of political correctness for the few moments when he's not being saintly. I'm not even crazy about a lot of the music they've been doing lately. I guess in November when they start showing Human Target on Wednesdays, I can tape that and watch it when I get home from choir.

I'm giving Supernatural one more week to see how it goes now that they've settled back into a "normal" mode, but so far, I've realized I don't even like the main characters anymore. I liked the early seasons with the "Luke Skywalker and Han Solo travel the country fighting demons and monsters" feel to it, but those characters are pretty much gone. It does make sense that the things they've been through would change them, but that doesn't mean I have to like the changes. I also wasn't fond of the apocalypse plot from last year. It was the same thing that bothered me about the fourth season of Angel -- a lot of the fun of this kind of show is the pretense that all this stuff is really going on in our world, and it explains a lot of the weirdness of our world, but when they go so big that everyone has to notice things (like towns being wiped off the map), it removes the pretense that this is what's going on secretly in the real world and makes it quite clearly an alternate version of our world.

On things I like, I rather enjoyed the pilot episode of Law and Order: UK (otherwise known as "Lee Adama and Martha Jones fight crime in London"). I wasn't a huge fan of the original US series because I've had enough bad jury duty experiences that I can't handle the courtroom stuff and all the legal wrangling. As I've said, lawyers are real and they're scary. It seems to help when you move it to another country with a different legal system and make the lawyers wear silly wigs (I am totally in favor of lawyers having to wear silly wigs in the courtroom). I was a little surprised at how difficult it was to get used to Jamie Bamber with a British accent again, until I realized that he was doing a different British accent than he used in all the costume dramas and that is his normal speaking voice. I guess they didn't want a cop who sounded like a Cambridge graduate. Anyway, I already love the relationship between the two detectives (almost as good as Lewis and Hathaway on PBS), and it's fun playing "Hey, it's that Doctor Who guest star!" with the guest cast and trying to recognize people without the alien makeup and costumes.

The best TV news this week was the renewal of Haven for a second season. I may get withdrawal after tonight's season finale, and we have to wait until next summer for new episodes. Too bad they aren't doing a Christmas episode like with the other summer Sci Fi shows because I'd love to see what A Very Haven Christmas would look like. Holiday store displays coming to life and rampaging through town because of a kid who was traumatized by his experience visiting Santa? But since they shoot in Nova Scotia and mostly outdoors, I can see where they would have a limited filming window. This show is turning out to be like a Stealth Lost. At first it looked like just a monster-of-the-week paranormal procedural with just enough of a mythology to create a series premise and some fun character stuff on the side, but then each time they reveal a clue about the mythology, it makes you look at the character stuff in a new way, and some of the fun side stuff might actually be a major clue to the mythology. They also have my favorite cop partnership on TV and one of the few relationships I wouldn't mind turning romantic if they keep writing it this well. Every time you think they're heading straight for a TV cliche, they neatly sidestep it and do something unexpected. They've also found an interesting way to ramp up the sexual tension without resorting to conflict or bickering between the characters.

So, see, it's not just me or even me being sick and crabby. Give me something good involving characters I like and I can enjoy it.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

This Post Brought to You by Benadryl

The plague seems to have returned and mutated. I pretty much bought the pharmacy at Target the other day, and now I have different symptoms that require the medications I didn't buy. I was rather surprised that I had to show ID to buy Robitussin. Apparently, that's one of the drugs that can be cooked into some kind of drug cocktail that gives you a buzz. I offered to cough for the clerk to prove I really needed it. I can't imagine getting high off that stuff. For one thing, it's nasty, and for another, the only high I get from it is the blessed respite from coughing. But on the upside, I only had one middle-of-the-night coughing fit last night, and it didn't come until 4:30 in the morning, so I almost got a whole night of uninterrupted sleep. Woo hoo. I'm practically well.

I don't know if it's related to the plague or to all the cold/allergy drugs, but I seem to have been living in simultaneous parallel timelines lately. Twice in the last couple of days I've discovered answering machine messages referring to the need to talk to me about something, from someone I had actually talked to about that thing at about the time stamp on the message. It's like there's a timeline where I did answer the phone and we had the conversation and a timeline where I didn't and the person left a message, and the messages are spilling over into the timeline where I answered the phone. Or I suppose the people could have called me in the very brief times when I was at the mailbox, taking the trash out or taking a shower and then they called back right away and then I didn't notice the message until later, but where's the fun in that? At any rate, it's disconcerting to realize I have a message and then find that it's from someone who needs to talk about something that we did talk about already.

I've been working on plotting a story idea, and I thought I was being easily distracted and wasting time yesterday because I was working at my desk instead of disconnecting from the Internet, and I kept thinking of things I needed to look up, which then devolved into web surfing until I remembered what I was supposed to be doing. But then when I went back to work on the synopsis, I'd have an idea that was even more fun and crazy than the direction I'd been going before I got sidetracked, so maybe it was my creative process at work. And then when I was on my way to choir (I can't sing right now, but we have to have two adults in the room at all times with the kindergardeners, and I figured I might as well stay for at least the first part of the adult choir rehearsal so I'll know what we're doing Sunday in case I can sing then), I came up with an idea that was so much fun that I was cackling with glee and saying "Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!" the rest of the way there. It still sounded good this morning and now I'm excited. I may disconnect from the Internet to really focus today. And if this book gets published, I should probably get a sponsorship from Benadryl: "This plot brought to you by Benadryl. Literally."

Finally, I have finally had success on the shoe shopping front. They weren't exactly what I wanted, but they met most of my requirements and were on sale. I'm almost ashamed to admit that this success came at Payless, but hey, it was the only place that had something like this. The current style of flats all have that sort of exaggerated rounded toe that looks like it should be more comfortable than the pointy toes, but the shoe is cut so low at the toe that it gives this Minnie Mouse look, or else makes you look like the ugly stepsister trying to squeeze your foot into Cinderella's slipper, like the shoe is totally out of proportion to the foot. But worse, it makes the edge of the shoe cut right across the big toe "knuckle," and that hurts. I kept trying on shoes that looked like they should be comfortable, only to find them painful right away. But now I have very low-heeled black semi-dressy shoes that aren't falling apart and that don't hurt, and they may hold me until styles change again.

Now time for more drugs and more liquids. I have a library event this weekend, so I'm hoping to get back to semi-normal, or at least able to talk, by then.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Harry Potter Comparison

I have one more rule on the "If ever I am a romance heroine" list that came out of a discussion in comments:
8) Before I have sex with or even make out with a man, I will learn his name and pertinent details, like what his profession is and where he works. Oh, and marital status.
Aside from the fact that emotional intimacy should precede physical intimacy, knowing something about a man before I get up close and personal with him will prevent such embarrassing situations as getting to work the next day and finding out that my one-night stand is my new boss, employee or co-worker. Before sleeping with a man, I should also know enough about him to catch the red flags that indicate he's married -- like do I have a way to contact him other than his cell phone number, have I ever been to his place, have I met his friends, have I met his co-workers, etc.

Now back to my biweekly addressing of questions related to my Enchanted, Inc. series. One question I was asked was whether or not I like any comparisons between my series and the Harry Potter books.

Actually, my series was somewhat inspired by the Harry Potter books. When I first came up with the initial idea, I'd just gotten into the Harry Potter series. I was late to the game, as I hadn't even heard of those books until the summer of 2000, when the fourth book came out. I was on a business trip in Boston, and there was an article about the series in the USA Today left in front of my hotel room door. I realized how big it was when I passed the Borders between the office and my hotel after work on release day, and there was already a long line of people in front of the store, many of them wearing costumes. I bought the first book that fall when I was in England, but I didn't read it until early the next year. I bought the next two books the next fall (2001) on another trip to England, and then I finally read them around Christmas after the first movie came out. I really liked the whimsy of those books and the collision between the fantasy world and the magical world, with both sides being a little clueless about each other. I also liked how relatable that world was. Even with all the fantasy elements, the characters were people I recognized. I've had teachers like many of the ones in the books. I've had classmates very much like the kids in the books, I've had relationships like the ones in the books, and I essentially was Hermione.

I wanted more books like that, only I also wanted them to be more adult. If there could be fantasy books with people and situations I related to about kids, why not for adults? The very first thought that sparked my series was the phrase "Bridget Jones meets Harry Potter" that popped into my head one morning. That summed it all up. This was also the heyday of the chick lit trend, and I thought it would be really fun to have that relatable world with a touch of magic, dealing with careers, dating and family. If a magical school was so much fun, what could you do with a magical workplace?

As popular as the Harry Potter series was, and as many articles I read about how many adults were reading those books, I was surprised to find that there really weren't any books like that for adults. The urban fantasy I found (though there wasn't much then) was all dark, without the fun and whimsy, and the characters were so deep into that dark world that I didn't really relate to them because they were never in situations that I recognized. Eventually, I realized that if I wanted to read books like that, I'd have to write them, but even then, I was worried that the fact that there weren't any books like that meant there was no market for them. I was questioning how good the idea was. If I was the only person going there, then maybe that meant it wasn't such a great idea, because surely an idea that great would have been snapped up by everyone else.

When I did sell the series, I was all for promoting with the Harry Potter angle, since there are quite a few readers there, and I was pretty sure that people who liked those books would like my books, but the US publisher was adamantly opposed to that link. The first book in my series even came out within a month of a Harry Potter release, so it seemed like there would be a lot of publicity opportunities. I remembered from previous releases that they always did some kind of round-up of other books fans might enjoy, either while waiting for the new one or after reading the new one and waiting for the next one. The publicists were very opposed to that. They kept saying that they wanted any articles about my books to be about me and my books, not just a mention in an article about Harry Potter. I kept saying that no one would write an article about me, and if they did, people wouldn't be inclined to read it, but they were definitely going to be covering Harry Potter, and people would be reading those articles. I did some of my own publicity along those lines, and those were my most successful publicity hits. I also found that creative repositioning of my books during the Harry Potter release party was very successful. I kept casually leaving copies of Enchanted, Inc. on the front tables at the Barnes & Noble during the release party, and then noticed that people milling around during the event would pick up the book, look at it, then take it immediately to the checkout stand, so I'd then move another book. If I had that kind of success making that connection, I can only imagine what might have happened if the publisher had done that kind of publicity on a national level.

I'm still really surprised that there haven't been more Harry Potter-like books for adults. There were a lot of adult readers, and a lot of the teen readers of the series are adults now. And yet, there's nothing that really captures that feel, and they don't seem to be looking for that. I suspect it's because publishing is so compartmentalized. The Harry Potter books were classified as children's books, so they were only compared to other children's books. They didn't look into who was buying and reading those books. That's one of the reasons they didn't want to compare my books to that series and why they didn't consider that comparison even when making the decision to publish my books in the first place. They looked at the numbers for the Harry Potter series and wanted to find another children's series. They didn't seem to consider how that might spill over into adult books. Urban fantasy doesn't fill that niche for me, mostly because it usually doesn't strike me as fantasy. It's more of a horror/paranormal romance/hardboiled mystery mix. The Dresden Files series comes closest, and as Jim Butcher says, it's kind of "Dirty Harry" Potter. But there doesn't seem to have been the magical workplace kind of book like I wrote.

So, I guess that's a long way of saying that I welcome the comparison, and I think my books can hold up to the comparison. I don't think I'm going quite as deep as the Potter books ended up going (but they weren't really there by book 4, either), and I'm certainly not going for the religious allegory that they ended up being. But as an exploration of a magical society used to satirize real-world situations, I think my books hold up pretty well in comparison.

I still have a few questions in queue, but please do feel free to ask more. I'll keep doing this as long as there are questions to answer.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

If I am a Romance Heroine

Romantic comedy movies get a bad rap, probably because there really are a lot of bad ones and the people who make them seem to think you can churn out any old garbage and get away with it. But a serious student of them, like myself, can pull out many life lessons from them. Hey, maybe I ought to write an advice book on the subject! At the very least, I could do the romance heroine version of the Evil Overlord List. So, here are the life lessons I've pulled from romance novels, romantic films and romantic comedies.

If I'm ever a romance heroine ...

1) If I meet someone I really like, I will exchange contact information with him.
I won't trust in fate to bring us together again. I won't arrange a meeting at a certain date in a certain place, with no plan B, in case I want to meet up but can't on that day. Things come up that may be entirely outside anyone's control, and I don't want to miss my chance at happiness because someone has a death in the family on the appointed day or gets hit by a taxi on the way to the rendezvous or he doesn't find the used book I scribbled my number in and then sold. It sounds lovely to say that it's up to fate or the will of God, and that if you're meant to be together, you'll find each other again, but that's actually wimping out and avoiding making your own choices. I can just hear God saying, "Hey, I brought you together in the first place. What more do you people want?" I'll set up the romantic meeting a year from now, but I'll have a backup plan in case something happens and we still want to see each other again.

2) I will make my decision about who I really love before the wedding ceremony.
The wedding ceremony is not the time to be wavering about which person I really love. If I'm wavering at all, then maybe I shouldn't be planning a wedding. If I'm still pining over someone I believe to be unavailable, maybe I shouldn't be planning to marry someone else. Not that I should put my life on hold while waiting for the unattainable person to become available, but if I'm able to be that sidetracked by the idea of someone else, it's probably a good sign that I'm not really into the person I'm planning to marry. If I know that I'd leave the person I'm marrying if the one I really love became available, then I won't get married. The other person deserves more than to be a consolation prize who'll get tossed aside as soon as the real prize comes up.

3) I will listen to the explanation.
If someone I love or even really like tries to tell me something, I will listen. It's probably important. If I don't listen, then I don't have the right to be angry at him for not telling me when I hear it later from someone else. If I get a piece of bad news about the person I love, I will give him the benefit of the doubt and give him the chance to explain. It may not be what I thought, and it doesn't say much about what I think about him if I'm able to leap directly to the worst possible conclusion. Before taking action based on an assumption, I will ask about it, even if I'm afraid of the answer. Better to ask, "So, who was that woman you were having lunch with today?" and then give him a chance to answer than to cancel the wedding and return all the gifts because I think he's cheating, and then find out it was just his sister.

4) I won't make assumptions based on superficial appearances.
This applies to first impressions -- the "gardener" I meet when I arrive at the grand estate almost always turns out to be an earl who takes a great personal interest in the grounds of his estate -- as well as to things like that lunch with the sister. Seriously, this lesson has been showing up since ancient mythology, it's a staple in folklore around the world, and fictional characters still manage to entirely miss the possibility that the poor person might be a rich person/king/god in disguise. Meanwhile, that person he's having lunch with is almost never a fling. If it were a fling, I wouldn't catch him so easily. If I find him in bed with the other woman, then yeah, I'll have a hissy fit and call things off, but if I see him in a restaurant with someone, I will go up and talk to him and introduce myself to the other woman before I call off the wedding. (I don't know how well this one holds up in real life, but I don't know that I'll run into that many grubby gardening earls. I might run into nerdy software billionaires, though.)

5) I won't get hung up on differences in one particular thing.
So I love weddings (I don't, but I'm being hypothetical here) and he hates them. How big a difference would that really make in our day-to-day life together? And does it really mean what I think it means about the kind of person he is? Maybe he just hates making a big fuss in public. It doesn't mean he can't be romantic. Likewise, I won't reject anyone offhand just because he doesn't like my favorite movie, doesn't like my favorite band, went to the wrong school, cheers for the wrong team, has money, doesn't have money, etc. Though I might make an exception if he went to Texas A&M. Some mixed marriages just don't work. And if he doesn't like Firefly, then we might not be very compatible. Okay, maybe there is something to this, after all, but only for important stuff, not for something silly like whether you like weddings. And if he is otherwise perfect, he probably would enjoy Firefly if he got the chance to watch it.

6) I can probably wait to tell him I love him.
Unless he's moving out of town forever or getting married to someone else that day, I don't have to chase him across town to tell him right now. And if he is moving out of town forever or getting married that day, isn't it a little selfish to expect him to change his life plans at the very last second, just because I've suddenly decided I love him? If I follow rule #1 and have exchanged contact information, then I can take my time to work things out and make a decision that's not a spur-of-the-moment thing. If he's following rule #2 and he's still getting married, then that means he's made his decision and disrupting his wedding to tell him that I love him would be tacky.

7) Sex can probably wait, too.
If I hated someone until just a second ago or was deeply involved with -- even engaged to -- someone else until I had a big epiphany a few minutes ago or if I've just run away from my own wedding, jumping into bed with someone else right away might not be the best idea. If I've only just now decided that I don't really loathe this person, after all, then there's a strong possibility that when the heat of the moment fades, I'll go back to loathing that person. Meanwhile, rebounds seldom go well. If it's for real, it can wait, and maybe taking some time to get used to the idea of this person and how I feel before we take the relationship to a sexual level will make the relationship more solid. I'll be able to tell whether it's really love or just lust.

And now I seem to have ruined the plots of most romantic comedy movies, especially the more recent ones. But if you eliminate all these things and then force yourself to come up with some new conflicts, maybe you'll get something good.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Weekend of the Plague

I had all kinds of plans for the weekend, and we had glorious fall weather. And I came down with the plague, so I spent the weekend on the sofa, coughing and whimpering. After my remarks a few weeks ago about the Lord of the Rings movies, that ended up being what I watched because I didn't want anything that would make me cry -- the sinuses were draining enough already -- and I didn't want anything that would make me laugh -- laughing made me cough. This was about the only thing I could come up with, and it meant I could go for nearly (or more than, in one case) three hours without getting up to change DVDs. The movies are less silly when they're in context, though I still think they went overboard with earnest speeches and close-ups of weepy eyes. They work especially well when you're on cold medicine and using them as background noise while reading Terry Pratchett. My experience pretty much consisted of enjoying the music, glancing up from time to time to enjoy the New Zealand scenery, and wishing I could jump into the screen with a bottle of shampoo and a pair of scissors. I can understand not having shiny, bouncy hair while in battle, but all that long, flowing hair just doesn't seem practical in those circumstances. They all got bad cases of helmet hair, all that hair would be uncomfortable under a helmet, and it seems like it would make a nice handhold for the enemy, or was there some warriors' code that forbade hair-pulling, and how did they get the Orcs to sign it? There is a reason the Marines go for the buzz-cut.

Yeah, that was pretty much my thought process while watching the movie. And I kind of want a Hobbit house. They look so cozy. Watching the movies made me want to re-read the books again (I've still read the books more times than I've seen the movies), but I'm a little afraid to. When I first read them in sixth grade, I plowed through them. They seemed so fast and exciting. I re-read them a year later and still loved them. I re-read them in college and found them to be an awful slog. I'm worried that I'd really spot all the flaws now, and that might diminish the memory of that time when I was eleven and thought they were amazing. Or I could discover depths I never noticed before.

I did get a slight vicarious taste of some of the weekend plans. We were going to go to the Lebanese Food Festival, and my very awesome friends brought me a baklava from the festival.

Now I'm in the annoying state where I'm well enough that I don't have an excuse for not doing the things I should be doing, but I don't feel well enough to do what I really want to do.

Meanwhile, I need to contemplate Halloween costume ideas. This will be something I wear to a party, where the main point of the costume is pretty much to show up and show it off, maybe get a few pictures taken, and then you go on to enjoy the party. So, nothing too elaborate or uncomfortable for sitting around, and I will likely have small children climbing on me, so probably nothing that might be damaged by sticky or greasy fingers. A couple of years ago, I did the Generic Urban Fantasy Book Cover, which involved pleather pants, and that worked well, as I could sponge off the little handprints. The costume catalogues stuck in the newspaper advertisements remain depressing, as all the female costumes for anyone older than about eight seem to essentially be French maid outfits, just in different colors and with different accessories to convey various characters. Whether you're a witch, a princess, a nurse, a vampire or a Viking warrior, you'll be wearing a corseted top, thigh-high stockings and a full skirt short enough to show the tops of the stockings. It's enough to make me want to see if I can find a costume idea that is as un-sexy as it's humanly possible to be (without actually being ugly -- I'd rather not buy into the idea that if you're not sexy, you're ugly).

Friday, October 01, 2010

Going for Goals

I'm in the plotting stage for something (a book, not world domination, at least for this week), and I find that this tends to make me really scattered, like that takes all my mental energy. But ideas are flowing, and it's a fun process of discovery.

My shoe-shopping trip yesterday was something of a failure. I didn't find anything that was what I really wanted. There were a couple of options that fell into the "okay, this could work" category, but they were more expensive than I liked, and I didn't like them enough to consider them worth the money. Instead, I ended up at the bookstore next door to the shoe store, where I found a CD set of complete Glenn Miller recordings for four bucks, so at least it wasn't a wasted trip. I hit the mall briefly, but it appears that this fall's fashions are mostly made up of strips of rags put together with a hot glue gun, and in such charming colors as "oatmeal" and "gray." Maybe it's supposed to look eco-friendly? There was one dress that intrigued me because it was a stunning design, but on closer inspection it proved to be made of shoddy material and with poor worksmanship, and it was not inexpensive. I guess I'll be shopping my closet this season, and maybe I'll hit the import shop to find some interesting scarves to change things up a bit.

Sometimes I find strange congruences in things I'm watching or reading, though that could be because I like finding patterns in things. Lately, I seem to have stumbled upon the theme of goals, or lack thereof.

I recently watched the movie Flashdance on HBO (would you believe, I'd never seen it?) and found it remarkably boring, but then realized that it was essentially a movie about someone who was actively not pursuing her main goal. The heroine wanted to be a professional dancer with a dance company, but she kept chickening out because she wasn't a "real" dancer, since she'd never taken a dance class. She'd learned only by reading books and imitating what she saw on TV. It wasn't exactly a realistic goal, at least not in the way it was presented in the movie. She might have been able to do modern dance that has a less-formal structure, but everything they showed her watching was classical ballet, and whenever she went to get the forms to audition for the dance company, all the other dancers she passed were wearing pointe shoes. Not to be a dance snob, but classical ballet is one area where you pretty much have to have formal training. You're not going to be able to do a glorified aerobics routine for a classical ballet company audition and get in. But the thing that got me is that there was an obvious solution to her dilemma. Every time she whined that she couldn't be a real dancer because she'd never taken a real dance class, I screamed at the TV "Then take a dance class, idiot!" She'd talked about having money saved, and while ballet training isn't cheap, the community college here lets you take the dance major classes as a non-credit course for very little (if I didn't like my class so much, were younger and were more serious, that's what I'd be doing). Plus, most dance studios let you take an initial class for free and then offer a pay-by-the-class option, so she could get a fair amount of training just by going around town and taking free classes or picking up a class whenever she had time or money for it.

It reminded me of a Dr. Phil show I saw once (back in the early days before he went into the reality-TV-style freakshow approach). A mother had written to him about her pre-teen daughter who desperately wanted to be a cheerleader and who was planning to try out at the end of the school year. The daughter was obese and couldn't do the physical things required of a cheerleader, like gymnastics or even making it through a whole dance routine, and the mother was asking where to draw the line in supporting her daughter's dreams. Should she encourage and support her in trying out even though she knew it would only lead to failure and humiliation, or should she not let her try out and stomp on her dream while sparing her the failure and humiliation? Dr. Phil pointed out that these weren't the only options, then talked to the girl about her dream, asking her what she'd done toward achieving it. It turns out that all she'd done was talk about wanting to do it, and he said that was a dream, not a goal, because if it's a goal, then you have a plan toward achieving it and are taking steps toward it. So he worked through with her what she'd have to do to be a cheerleader, including getting in good enough physical shape that she had the necessary endurance, taking gymnastics classes and going to cheerleading camp. That's stuck with me so that whenever I catch myself dreaming about something that would be nice, I give myself a reality check about whether I'm doing what it takes to get there.

So, it seemed like this character in the movie had a goal she wasn't doing anything about. She was avoiding the audition because she didn't think she qualified, but wasn't doing anything about qualifying. Not that this was the most ridiculous thing about that movie. I was cracking up about the regulars at a blue-collar Pittsburgh bar avidly watching artsy, message-laden modern dance routines performed in silhouette by decently clothed women.

Meanwhile, I've been reading the novel Villette by Charlotte Bronte. This whole books is about someone who refuses to have goals or dreams because she's afraid of the pain that comes with goals and dreams. If she doesn't want anything, then she won't be hurt, but then that means a very constrained life that doesn't really suit her. The spoiler-laden introduction (that I read last) hailed this as a great achievement in writing to convey this kind of character and how it represented the options available to women of that era. I guess this would be the literary novel compared to the more "commercial" Jane Eyre, which actually has a plot. As a character study it was interesting, and there seemed to be good reason for the heroine's fear. Plus, she didn't whine about it or use it as an excuse. You had to read between the lines to figure it out. But not the most entertaining of books.

Which is why next in the queue is a new-to-me Terry Pratchett.